The Malaysian Optical Council cautions public against purchasing inferior contact lenses from unauthorised channels
In Malaysia, all powered and non-powered contact lenses, including cosmetic lenses, have to be registered as medical devices under the Medical Devices Act.
However, despite its classification as a medical device, contact lenses can be purchased from various online and offline platforms, such as night markets, social media, and e-commerce sites.
This leads to wrongful and unsafe contact lenses purchase which are most likely detrimental to consumer’s eye health.
Therefore, to create awareness among consumers and better monitor and control the online sale of contact lenses, guidelines have been developed by the Malaysian Optical Council (MOC).
Optometrist Nor Azizah Ismail, secretary of the MOC, shared with The Health on the guidelines and online contact lenses sales.
Contact lens online sales guidelines
The MOC was initially against the online selling of contact lenses. Still, the Ministry of Health (MoH) recognised the popularity of online shopping among the public and the need to adapt to this new trend.
“Currently, there are no legal requirements in place to enforce online sales of contact lenses. So, we cannot prohibit people from selling and buying online,” said Nor Azizah.
“So the MOC has come out with ‘Guidelines for Online Sale of Optical Appliances and Contact Lenses’, which is a set of guidelines to guide optometrists and opticians on online selling.”
While the guidelines have no legal impact, Nor Azizah said if they were strictly adhered to by all eye care practitioners, then it would be possible to differentiate whether the online store is by an authorised and certified practitioner.
“The guidelines state contact lens can only be sold online via a website that uses a local domain as well as local hosting and server and is by a registered practitioner. Contact lenses are not allowed to be sold on any social media or e-commerce platform.
The guidelines also state that the website must only display contact lenses registered with the Medical Device Authority (MDA), MoH.
The website must also display the following information:
i. Name and business registration number.
ii. Full name and address of the premises (not a PO box address).
iii. Contact phone number and email address.
iv. Name and MOC registration number of the optometry practitioner in change of managing the website.
v. Product registration number (MAL).
vi. Include a statement ‘Please seek the advice of a medical practitioner or optometrist registered if experiencing persistent symptoms or side effects’.
“If anyone comes across the selling of contact lenses on any social media or e-commerce platform, or websites that fail to follow the above requirements, they will know that this is not by a registered practitioner.”
Online optical stores
“It is undeniable that purchasing contact lenses online is faster and convenient. And of course, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it helps with social distancing.
“Consumers can buy contact lens in the comfort of their own homes. But remember to buy the contact lens from a website handled by a registered optometrist and optician.
“The usual practice should be to purchase replenishment of lenses from the website or online store of the consumer’s regular practitioner.
A disadvantage of online stores is purchasing contact lenses from unauthorised platforms such as social media and e-commerce sites handled by unregistered individuals.
“These individuals will not be able to give the correct advice about contact lens wear, and this will be the biggest threat to the consumer’s eyes.
Survey findings showed that most of the cases related to contact lenses were purchased without a prescription online, at night markets or non-optical shops and buyers did not receive advice on lens care and maintenance.
Nor Azizah shared: “Contact lens-related corneal infection is the most severe complication of contact lens wear for both powered and non-powered cosmetic contact lenses.
“When I worked in Sungai Buloh Hospital, we used to see people going blind due to inferior contact lenses. And most of them were young adults, students and working-age groups who purchased unprescribed contact lenses online from unregistered platforms.”
The safety aspect
Contact lenses are safe to wear provided consumers follow the following requirements:
• Have regular eye health checks and valid prescriptions from authorised eye care practitioners
• Purchase from authorised eye care practitioners or registered optometry/optical practices, and
• Buy reliable and safe approved contact lenses as recommended by eye care practitioners
The requirement is the same for online contact lenses purchasing, although it is limited to replenishment purposes only.
“There are two types of consumers; the first timers and the long time users. The group that worries us most is the first timers,” shared Nor Azizah.
“The first-time consumers should not be buying contact lenses online to wear as they require a comprehensive eye checkup by an optometry practitioner and have to be taught the correct way of wearing and removing lenses as well as contact lens care.
“They also need to have an eye check-up once a month after getting the first prescribed contact lens to assess the suitability.
“And after a subsequent checkup and the consumer is deemed compliant, only then they can they purchase contact lenses for replenishment purposes.”
Nor Azizah added that all contact lens wearers still need to have a yearly checkup with their eye care practitioner
“The practitioner will examine their eye health status, and determine whether they need to change the power of the contact lens parameter. If so, they will then need a new prescription. “
If the consumer fails to follow the correct process and still chooses to buy the contact lens from unauthorised platforms, it is done at their own risk as they are exposing their eyes to damage and blindness.
Nor Azizah hopes that consumers will be more aware and only purchase contact lenses from reliable and authorised eye care practitioners to ensure their eye health. — The Health